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Hands On: Pokemon XD

Nintendo unleashes new details and lets us play the next Pokemon game.
by Anoop Gantayat

July 15, 2005 - Nintendo has unleashed new details on its next (and presumably last) GameCube Pokemon title, Pokemon XD. Continuing along the lines of Pokemon Colosseum, XD features a similar gameplay concept as that title and seems to even reuse the same graphics engine.

You once again play as a nameless main character out on a quest to free certain types of Pokemon from those intent on using them for evil. You're a Pokemon Trainer who lives at the Pokemon Research Facility with your mom and your younger sister Mana. Your father was head of the facility prior to his death. Due to some incident that will be revealed at the start of the game, you find yourself on an adventure surrounding Dark Pokemon.

First featured in Colosseum, Dark Pokemon are Pokemon who have had their hearts sealed shut and are used as pure fighting machines. The only way to truly identify a Dark Pokemon is by a purple mist that it emits when angered. You'll have to make use of your special Snatch Machine to free the Dark Pokemon from their slavery.

The main character won't be alone on his quest. The blue-haired Mana will play an important role in the game, as will Lilia, your mother. A character named Crain was once your father's friend. He now heads the Pokemon Research Facility and is developing the Revive Hall, which will be used free the Dark Pokemon from their slavery.

You'll also head out on your journey with Pokemon at your side. The first game started you off with two Pokemon. This time, you have just one: Eevie. As the game advances, you'll meet some special characters who'll help Eevie evolve into five forms. Of course, other Pokemon will join your party in time as well.

XD is similar to Colosseum in its mix of adventure and battles, with Pokemon battles seeming to form the main part of gameplay. You'll face off against a number of other trainers, using your Snatch Machine to capture their Dark Pokemon when the timing is right.

While Colosseum had one of your companions identify the Dark Pokemon for you, this time around, you have a special pair of goggles, the Aura Searcher, that allows you to do it on your own. You also have a Snatch Machine attached to your left arm, which is used to capture the Pokemon.

Facing off against a Dark Pokemon can be a challenge for even an experienced trainer, as Dark Pokemon have a number of powerful dark skills at their disposal:

Dark Attack: A standard attack against one opponent

Dark Rush: A stronger attack against one opponent

Dark Wave: A wave of light that attacks two opponents

Dark Rave: Attacks two opponents, but stronger than Dark Rave

Dark Mist: Surrounds opponent in a mist and makes evasion rating drop two levels

Dark Half: Drops the life of all Pokemon by half.

Once you've identified Dark Pokemon using your Aura Searcher goggles, you'll have to weaken the Pokemon using standard attacks, then launch your Monster Ball at it. Thanks to your Snatch Machine, the monster ball becomes a Snatch Ball, capable of snatching an opponent's Pokemon. This is something that you'd never do under normal circumstances, of course, but snatching a Dark Pokemon is okay, because you're intentions are good.

Once you do get one of the Dark Pokemon in your possession, you'll have a powerful ally and can use all its dark skills. However, Dark Pokemon have a few weaknesses when compared to the regular type. First off, they cannot rise in level, even though they gain experience as they battle. Also, Dark Pokemon will occasionally fall into what's known as "Rebirth State" during battle. Once they fall into this state, you'll have to call them back in.

Your eventual goal is to free your Dark Pokemon from their slavery, which requires patience and care as a trainer. As you call the Dark Pokemon out into battle and use its different skills, its normal side will slowly recover. You can determine how close a Dark Pokemon is to recovery by closely watching its Revive Gauge. Once this Gauge reaches 0, you'll have to hold a Revive Ceremony in order to take the last step and turn the Dark Pokemon back to normal form.

A fully revived Dark Pokemon loses its dark skills, but slowly begins to remember normal skills. This includes some skills that were not present in the Game Boy Advance Pokemon games, so if you want to use some nifty new skills, you'll have to start catchin' those Dark Pokemon.

There may be some Dark Pokemon that cannot be revived. Taking a special role in the game is Dark Lugia, a special form of Lugia that has visible differences from the non-dark type. Dark Lugia is at the center of the Pokemon XD storyline and was created with claims that she can never be returned to normal form. Will you be able to save Dark Lugia and revive her?

IGN got a chance to try out Pokemon XD recently. We played a short demo featuring a brief adventure section followed by a battle. The game seems to reuse the graphics engine from Colosseum, resulting in a similar-looking title. Even in terms of gameplay, differences from Colosseum are hard to spot. In particular, we noticed that the battles are just as long as they were in the first game, with unskippable attacks. If lengthy battles don't bug you, and Pokemon is your thing, you should find a lot to like in Pokemon XD.

Nintendo is planning an August 4 release date for Pokemon XD in Japan. A US release is expected in October.

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